[20] Regina Spektor, ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’

Regina Spektor

Junior is 7. When we started our year-end countdowns on 7 December 2005 she was five months old and our No.20 single of the year was Gorillaz and De La Soul’s ‘Feel Good Inc.’.

In 2006 it was Secret Machines’ ‘Lightning Blue Eyes’
In 2007 it was Bat For Lashes’ ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’
In 2008 it was Hot Chip’s ‘Ready For The Floor’
In 2009 it was LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Bye Bye Bayou’
In 2010 it was Lykke Li’s ‘Get Some’
In 2011 it was Surkin’s ‘Ultra Light’

And now it’s Regina Spektor, exhuming a song from a decade ago and slapping on a bouncing, pop reggae rhythm track that you’d have expected to see Rockmelons fail to have a hit with in 1993. So it’s all about history today.

“I know this song,” says Junior, turning sharply to the stereo and draping her hair in her apple strudel and custard. “This is the best song ever,” projects Junior 2 (aged 4), hearing it for the first time. By the second chorus she knows all the words because she’s got a brain like that. Junior 3 (aged 2) just wants to get down and dance with her sisters. With every daughter we produce, this blog gets more complicated. That’s why I take six-month breaks – not laziness. No.

Spektor’s never been more than a kooky distant blip on my radar but What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is a deep-pile, affecting album and this is its shining pop moment. It also makes me want to hang out on Lexington and claim, “I love Paris in the rain”. I just love Paris when I’m not throwing up the previous night’s dinner from that place near Sacré Coeur. So that’s nice.

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[20] Lykke Li, ‘Get Some’

Lykke Li

TESTING, testing, one, two, one, two – in the place to be. Here’s the first of the last words on the year, starting in November because there are 20 working days until Christmas. We worked it out.

The entire internet was Lykke-ablaze a few weeks ago when this one surfaced. Which is odd, because I don’t remember everyone going doolally over Youth Novels in 2008 – or perhaps Junior, her mum and I were all so doolally about it ourselves that we inhabited our own remote doolally island far from the doolalliness of the hoi polloi. Whatever the case, everyone loves Lykke now and well they might: ‘Get Some’ hits all the right buttons; you know, the ones marked “voodoo”, “tribal”, “freak-blues” and “really rather rude”.

Junior’s too busy doing some sort of shimmy to pay attention to Lykke Li’s frank suggestions for her partner. A relief, because I don’t really want to explain all that. I’d have to look it up, for a start.

[7] The Specials, ‘Ghost Town’

The Specials

This place being a beacon of originality and all that, it’s difficult to tackle ‘Ghost Town’ without offering trite observations about unfortunate serendipitous events that have been reeled out a million times before. Ahem. No, we wouldn’t want to do anything like that. No. Now, wasn’t it strange how all those urban riots raged while this was at No.1? It’s as if Dammers, Hall and the gang were seers; arch-chroniclers of the rough-end of the street, so in touch with the pulse their fingers kept bobbing up and down.

OK, let’s just say that this queasy classic is powerful and insidious enough, even without the confluence of circumstance that makes it a vivid ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’. A lucky break, if we’re being grim.

The best part of 30 years removed from all that, Junior just liked the record – although she drew the rather alarming conclusion that the crazed, ghoulish “la-la-la”s were being sung by Lykke Li. Still, with a whole new set of riots surely only a further drop in house prices away, there’s an opening for Lykke to reissue ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’ and provide a timely anthem for our skidaddle out of the chaos.

People getting angry:

[1] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’

MGMT

Like LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ last year, this is so far ahead of the pack it isn’t funny. Except it is. Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser dream of their rock’n’roll future to come, and it’s all drugs and supermodels – are they as knee-deep in them now as they anticipated? Hell, probably.

‘Time To Pretend’ has an irresistible, kinetic energy. It’s a rolling stone, but it gathers moss, drums (the drums, the drums), synths, pure glee and giddy excitement. I suppose it has an ‘80s bent in its shiny, pumped-up production yet the excess is unfiltered ‘70s. They look like a pair of prog/hippie casualties to boot. The second half is one long spine-tingle and the hanging chords of the final bridge/chorus sound almost heroic – assuming there’s heroism in “The models will have children/We’ll get a divorce/Find some more models/Everything must run its course”. Naturally there is.

The album Oracular Spectacular is a bit Blue Oyster Cult for me; let’s just revel in a perfect single’s anticipation of living fast and dying young. The album prize can go to Vampire Weekend, with honours to TV On The Radio, Lykke Li and Coldplay (yes, Coldplay – I couldn’t believe it either).

As for Junior, she’s loved this from the moment she first heard the chirupping bleeps of the intro. Today she dances, rolls around the floor and bounds about in front of her sister – and her sister’s clapping. Bravo.

[11] Martha Wainwright, ‘Bleeding All Over You’

Martha Wainwright

Arthur, as Junior once christened her, is hit-and-miss; capable of lovely stuff, but equally adept at overwrought meanders. Must be a family thing. I liked a couple of thirds of her debut – then this came along and bowled me over. It’s an enviable skill to turn out a gorgeous, heartbreaking song with the word “cowshit” sitting pretty in the middle.

But it’s not all about cowshit. It’s about the unlucky point in the triangle; it’s about the hooks, picked out with every perfect pluck of the guitar; it’s about her generosity. The first day I heard it I listened to it eight times over, and I’m still not tired 30 plays later.

Doing the Jukebox Junior thing on the bus isn’t the ideal way to watch reactions, but this is suited to a blissful, concentrated listen anyway. She’s heard it often enough, and was once seen swaying to it with wavy arms – like a rather-more-clothed Tales Of The Unexpected silhouette – but when I asked if she knew who it was, she replied, “Lykke Li?” No. “Girls Aloud?” No, her name begins with M. “Is it Mummy?”

[13] Lykke Li, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’

Lykke Li

Junior was poorly this morning, so her mother kept this one back ‘til later. I had no worries about it being a smash with her, though, because we’ve been wallowing in the peculiar cooing sound of Lykke Li all year long. She already had a foot in the door of our house before I’d heard a note – what with my compulsive love of Scandinavian pop – but when she turned out to be a Swedish Björk with enough glorious tunes to fill an ABBA Best Of… well, we practically had the guest room made up.

Whatever you might expect, there’s nothing flimsy about ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’, the most plainly obvious single from the gossamer-light but hard-nosed Youth Novels album. It sashays about while piano is gamely thumped, and even though Lykke sounds cutesy she’s still letting us know who’s boss. Cementing the Scandi-pop credentials, this and Youth Novels enjoy the production magic of Björn of Peter, Björn and John fame; that’s Peter, Björn and John of ‘Young Folks’ fame; that’s ‘Young Folks’ of Jukebox Junior No.1 Single of 2006 fame; that’s the 2006 Top 20 of I-haven’t-yet-transferred-it-to-this-version-of-the-blog fame. Got all that?

Eventually, Junior listened on the way home from Sainsbury’s and was observed to clap in time (you’ll hear Lykke Li herself declaring, “I know your hands will clap”). It enjoyed a second play at home, where Junior danced like a dervish. So much for being ill. She then asked for “lemico, lemico”, which Lykke fans may recognise as a bastardised refrain from ‘Tonight’. Yes, we’ve played this album a lot.

2008 Top 20 Singles?

Halfway through the year, always looking for delaying tactics and ways to ramp up the tension for the year-end countdown, here’s a minor indicator – the Top 20 Most Played 2008 Singles on my iPod thingy.

[1] Martha Wainwright, ‘Bleeding All Over You’
[2] The Ting Tings, ‘Great DJ’
[3] Laura Marling, ‘Ghosts’
[4] Alphabeat, ‘Fascination’
[5] Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’
[6] Coldplay, ‘Violet Hill’
[7] The Ting Tings, ‘That’s Not My Name’
[8] Death Cab For Cutie, ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’
[9] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’
[10] Lykke Li, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’
[11] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’
[12] Santogold, ‘L.E.S. Artistes’
[13] Portishead, ‘Machine Gun’
[14] Vampire Weekend, ‘Oxford Comma’
[15] Laura Marling, ‘Cross Your Fingers’/’Crawled Out Of The Sea’
[16] Hercules And Love Affair, ‘Blind’
[17] The Shortwave Set, ‘No Social’
[18] Goldfrapp, ‘A&E’
[19] H ‘two’ O featuring Platnum, ‘What’s It Gonna Be’
[20] Foals, ‘Red Socks Pugie’

Admit it. You’re astonished.